The castles of Great Britain are timeless relics of a proud heritage. From flamboyant Georgian structures to neo-gothic Victorian designs, castles continue to attract history-lovers and romantics from around the world.
They are a magnet for the rich and famous. Bond actor David Beckham married former Spice Girl Victoria in a wedding fit for royalty with red velvet thrones and royal trumpeters to greet guests at Luttrellstown Castle near Dublin. Model Elizabeth Hurley and Indian businessman Arun Nayar tied the knot in medieval Sudeley Castle in the Cotswolds. Paul McCartney married Heather Mills at St. Salvator’s Church on the grounds of Castle Leslie, a 17th century castle that is now a 14-room luxury hotel near the Northern Irish border.
Some castles now lie in ruins but there are many castles that have been lovingly restored and reincarnated as luxurious hotels where ordinary travellers can experience living like a king or queen. Here is our pick of the most romantic.
Amberley Castle, West Sussex, England
Only a one-and-a-half-hour drive from London is the 900-year-old Amberley Castle. The castle’s medieval atmosphere comes complete with suits of armour, tapestries, crossbows and arched stone doorways.
Built in the 12th century as a hunting lodge for the Bishop of Chichester, the castle has been enjoyed by both Queen Elizabeths I and II.
The luxurious bedrooms and suites have four-poster beds, rich wall hangings, antique decorations and modern additions like en-suite jacuzzi bathrooms and TVs.
Guests can while away the time playing tennis or croquet. The most romantic spot is the enchanting rose gardens complete with resident peacocks hidden behind the castle’s soaring stone walls.
Thornbury Castle, South Gloucestershire, England
King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn once slept in the Duke’s Bedchamber. Although the royal couple would have been familiar with four-poster beds, stone walls, roaring fires and ornate carved ceilings, they might have been amazed at the well-appointed bathrooms and colour TVs.
This 16th-century castle is the only Tudor castle in England to operate as a hotel and has the oldest Tudor gardens in England. Croquet, archery, clay-pigeon shooting and falconry are available on the castle grounds while fishing, quad biking and other activities can be arranged nearby.
The menu changes on a daily basis and offers internationally-inspired British cuisine prepared with herbs and vegetables grown on the premises.
Inverlochy Castle, Scotland
Queen Victoria, who spent a week at Inverlochy sketching and painting in 1873, wrote in her diaries ‘I never saw a lovelier or more romantic spot’.
The castle was built in 1863 near the site of the original 13th century fortress and was a private residence until 1969 when it was converted into a hotel.
Share the breathtaking views of Ben Nevis and the Scottish highlands with a celebrity or two. Past visitors include Robert Redford, Sean Connery, Elton John and Mel Gibson. Dine like a visiting royal in one of the three dining rooms elaborately decorated with furniture presented by the King of Norway.
Dromoland Castle, County Clare, Ireland
This 16th-century castle has been a hotel since 1962 and is the ancestral home of the O’Brien clan, a native Gaelic family of royal blood and direct descendants of Ireland’s last High King, Brian Boru. The ambience is of a plush private club with stately halls, open fires, family portraits and mahogany.
The spa is a contemporary oasis of calm within the castle walls with six luxury treatment rooms and an outdoor gazebo-covered hydro spa. Golfers will love the 18-hole par 72 golf course designed by Irish golfing legend J.B. Carr.
The Dromoland Castle Golf Academy has a nine-bay, floodlit, fully automated driving range, a 500-square-metre putting green along with a 450-square-metre bunker and chipping green modelled after the famous ‘Road Hole’ bunker on the 17th at St Andrews.
Ashford Castle, County Mayo, Ireland
Surrounded by picture-perfect emerald forests, lush rolling hills and lakes where the movie “The Quiet Man” was filmed, this 13th-century castle sits majestically by scenic Lough Corrib. Once the estate of the aristocratic Guinness family, known for their expertise in brewing, banking and politics, Ashford Castle opened as a hotel in 1939 and is never short of visiting celebrities.
Suave Bond actor Pierce Brosnan married Keely Shaye Smith in a traditional Irish reception here in 2001. Guest rooms are individually and stylishly designed with marble bathrooms, sumptuous fabrics and stately furnishings.
Rooms retain their original features but are equipped with modern conveniences such as broadband connectivity and interactive TV. Falconry, clay shooting and golf (there’s a nine-hole par 35 parkland course designed by Irish golf architect Eddie Hackett) are among the activities on offer. The spa menu is extensive and specialises in Yon Ka products used in energy balancing treatments.
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